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How Does The Great Dean Lister Defend A Standing Rear Naked Choke?

How Does The Great Dean Lister Defend A Standing Rear Naked Choke?


 How to Handle Rear Naked Chokes by Dean Lister

Who is Dean Lister?  Dean is one of the great pioneers of Jiu Jitsu and mixed martial arts in America. He is an ADCC Champion. He fought in some of the biggest MMA organizations: Pride FC and Ultimate Fighting Championships. His teaching has had significant impact in both MMA and Jiu Jitsu.

Dean Lister was born in San Diego, California. However, with his family in the military he spent most of his youth abroad in South American countries. Like a lot of military kids, he faced constant bullying as the perpetual new kid. He sought martial arts as a way to defend himself. When he returned to the states, he found wrestling, then Sambo and eventually Jiu Jitsu. He spent over a decade training at Fabio Santos’ academy in San Diego where he earned his brown belt. Eventually Dean would earn his black belt from fellow Santos student Jeffery Higgs.

Lister’s grappling accomplishments are significant. He competed in ADCC tournament 6 times and is the ADCC Open Weight Champion (2003) and ADCC Super Fight Champion (2005) and ADCC Champion (2011).  Additionally, he a two-time national (US) sambo champion, four-time Machado National (US) BJJ champion and National (US) Gracie BJJ champion. He has notable victories over Jean Jacques Machado, Iiir Latifi, Nathan Marquardt, Saulo Ribeiro, Marcio 'Pe De Pano' Cruz, Alexandre Ferreira ‘Cacareco’, Masutatsu Yano, Augusto Ferrari, Radek Turek, Rodolfo Vieira, Joao Assis, and Ricardo "Demente" Abreu.

Dean’s grappling skills served him well in MMA. He has had over 20 fights in some of the most prestigious organizations. Lister was a King of the Cage Middleweight Champion. He has also fought in Pride Fighting Championships and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Upgrade your self-defense with this video by the great Dean Lister!


Lister is well known for his teaching abilities and has been sought all over the world for his combat knowledge. He was a grappling coach for Tito Ortiz on Ultimate Fighter Series 7 (TUF 7). He teaches at Victory Mixed Martial Arts in San Diego with fellow black belts and Jiu Jitsu legends Jeff Glover and Jocko Willink. It is also worth noting that Dean served as the catalyst that introduced the great John Danaher to leg locks. John tells the story of Dean training at Renzo’s. Danaher asked Dean a question about a leg lock. Lister replied, “Why would you ignore 50% of the human body?” It was Dean’s simple statement that started Danaher on the path to create his legendary leg lock system that would shift the paradigm of Jiu Jitsu.


In this video Dean Lister explores how to defend the rear naked choke in a self-defense situation.  The first option is to grab your opponent by the wrist. Lister states that the thumb is a better option but may not always be available. With his other hand he grabs his opponent in the crook of the elbow. He then spreads his legs apart. The value of spreading his stance may be to lower his hips. He then throws this opponent at an angle. The next scenario that Dean explores is if someone sinks in the rear naked choke and starts to drag your back. Lister notes that almost always their lead is the same side as the choking arm. Lister advocates small steps around until you can post a leg behind their lead leg. From here it is easy to throw them over your leg.  A third scenario is when you opponent has the rear naked choke sunk in and it is not possible to grab their wrist. If they have not made a fist with their support hand you can break the structure of the choke by grabbing a finger. Lister notes that in Jiu Jitsu competition it is illegal to grab a single finger but in a street fight it is fair game. If their fingers are unavailable then Dean advocates moving your lead leg behind their secondary leg. From here he has the angle to connect his arms around their legs and drop them on their head. Dean notes that some would advocate an eye gouge instead of this throw. However, Lister states that the eyes may be hard to find in the limited amount of time you have and this is a far superior option.

This video is a wonderful example of Dean’s ability to communicate technique to even novice grapplers.  Like all of Lister’s instructional videos, there is a lot of detail. I know that I often gain new insights every time I re-watch one of his videos. Dean Lister’s instructional videos have a powerful impact on anyone who makes a careful study of them. Certainly, the Jiu Jitsu community is lucky to have him.

Gain the confidence to feel comfortable in any situation. Dean Lister is not only a BJJ Champion. He is also a self-defense expert. Learn how to utilize your Jiu Jitsu in life threatening situations. Find out what works and what doesn't in self-defense scenarios. Dive inside the mind of one of the greatest American martial artists to change your perspective on the functionality of Jiu Jitsu.






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